A Look Back at Greenbuild & Keynote Speech

Nov. 29, 2006

Today, it’s my very great pleasure to introduce Bart Harvey, the president, CEO, and chairman of Enterprise Community Partners, who will outline a major new partnership between our two organizations that is designed to expand the benefits of green building for the developers, operators, and residents of affordable housing.

See related story: New Initiative Bolsters Green Affordable Housing Efforts: Enterprise Community Partners and U.S. Green Building Council

Announce Partnership

Thanks to Enterprise Community Partners for its long-term commitment to changing the way Americans think about affordable homes, helping us all to better understand that citizens in every economic bracket should have access to the tremendous benefits of green building.

As we see from our work with schools and with affordable housing, USGBC is clearly dedicated to improving conditions for humanity and for nature. It’s part of our mission. It’s embedded in our guiding principles. It echoes across our core values.

And, among our core values are consensus and transparency across the organization. As much as LEED validates green building practices, it is equally important to validate our processes - to ensure that they incorporate consensus and transparency. So, last year, we began the process of becoming an accredited standards developer under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

I’m pleased to report that we have been advised that USGBC has been officially designated an ANSI-accredited standards developer. This important step will ensure continued responsible development of all USGBC programs and initiatives and help us more rapidly advance the green building agenda.

We build green buildings because they matter. But, nowhere do they matter more than in this epic battle we’ve just begun with ourselves relative to our output of CO2 emissions that are responsible for global climate change. We know that the greatest sources of those emissions are the very things that have helped us prosper - the cars that we drive and the electricity that we generate to run the buildings we need. They are also the primary cause of the climate changes that have begun to significantly affect our quality of life.

By now we know these changes by heart. Melting ice caps causing rising sea levels. Monumental storms that take or change forever the lives of people we know and care about. Changing temperature patterns are changing our economic and social fabric at an alarming rate.

Today is not a day for apathy, passivity, denial, or feigned ignorance ... their costs are too high.

We are fortunate ... each and every one of us in this room. We have the resources and the know-how required to achieve immediate and measurable results in our efforts to reverse global warming.

What we do is build green buildings; in doing so today, right now, we’re reducing carbon emissions by about 40-percent more than those who continue to build conventional buildings.  

But, even that’s not enough. We need to build more of them. And, we need to renovate the ones we have already built because they are energy hogs of the first order. And, time, unfortunately, is not on our side here.

So, to affect greater change in shorter time we approached another partner, a long-time industry leader that has made its mark by helping companies visualize the buildings they intend to build with graphic-based technologies that have helped move design and architecture to the forefront of innovation.

That company is Autodesk. Its vision is that if sustainable design is to hit the mainstream, we must embed its principles into the operating system of the industry and then deliver tools and knowledge to every desktop of every person involved in a project. Not only can this give designers real choice, it gives them power. If they have modeling tools that help them visualize and evaluate a building’s carbon footprint while it’s still on the drawing board, imagine how that will change the buildings we build and the communities in which we live.

If the industry can move from traditional CAD tools (like AutoCAD) that show you what a building looks like, to model-based tools (like Revit), that show you what building performs like, remarkable things can happen.

Here to tell you about this exciting new technology partnership between USGBC and Autodesk is Vice President - Industry Strategy and Relations for the Autodesk Building Solutions Division, Phil Bernstein.

See related story:Autodesk and U.S. Green Building Council Partner on Technology Initiatives to Move Building Industry Toward Greener Future: Companies to Collaborate on Initiatives to Transform Practice of Sustainable Design and Reduce Causes of Climate Change Through Expanded Use of Building Information Modeling


This kind of tool will have a tremendous impact on this industry’s ability to effect immediate change at speeds that were probably inconceivable even a year ago.

Our commitment is to use what we know and build on it together, then share what we learn with the entire industry so we’re all moving forward.

Even as we sit here today and celebrate how far we’ve come, we all know that, as leaders, we can never be satisfied. We have to keep pushing. And, as an organization dedicated to leadership, we are today raising the bar for the building industry by launching a series of new initiatives that acknowledge our unique role in slowing climate change and eventually reversing the direct causes of climate change.

Recognizing the need for urgent action USGBC earlier this summer signed the Wingspread Principles on the U.S. Response to Global Climate Change. These principles are an outgrowth of the National Leadership Summit on Energy and Climate Change and part of an initiative to review and update the 140 recommendations submitted to the nation in 1999 by the President's Council on Sustainable Development.

The Wingspread Principles were developed to review these sustainable development goals and to create a roadmap for moving beyond words to action. The principles respond to two questions:

  1. What is our nation’s responsibility as the largest producer of the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming?
  2. Can the many individuals and groups concerned about climate change be better heard if we begin to speak with one voice?

The result is intended to guide the nation in taking comprehensive, immediate action to address the threat of climate change.

In August, USGBC's Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the Wingspread Principles as part of a broader resolution on our organization's commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. This resolution recognizes two facts: 1) that buildings and transportation sectors are the two largest sources of greenhouse-gas emissions, and 2) that USGBC, through the LEED rating system, is both capable of and responsible for making substantial improvements in both.

To that end, USGBC’s board and the LEED Steering Committee have this week put forth a proposal that, beginning in 2007, all new commercial LEED projects will be required to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent when compared to current emission levels.Because LEED drives performance through the synergistic integration of whole building systems, these results will be achieved by looking at all four of the categories that can lessen a building’s carbon footprint: energy, water, transportation, and materials. This important proposal will go to our membership for ballot in December, and it will become “LEED law” effective the date of member approval.

We will begin to develop a similar recommendation for residential and neighborhood markets.

Because of the universal impacts of climate change, and to ensure a sustainable future for our children, USGBC is underscoring this challenge with a commitment to the following:

By 2010, there will be 100,000 certified commercial buildings and 1 million certified homes.

By 2020, there will be 1 million certified commercial buildings and 10 million certified homes.

This is the future we intend to deliver, and that future has global implications because climate change is a global issue.

Additionally, the LEED Steering Committee and the Board of Directors will also put forth to the USGBC membership a tremendously important recommendation that specifically targets LEED’s energy-reduction prerequisites. Our recommendation is to require all commercial LEED projects registered after the date of member approval of this change achieve at least two energy and optimization credits. This calls out specific action to improve energy performance in buildings, evolving our rating system in an important way to align with our deep commitment to climate.

Further, we will work to develop robust and meaningful metrics to track and accurately quantify the CO2 emissions and reductions from LEED certified projects. To help educate our owner-developer customer base and encourage design excellence, USGBC is developing an innovative carbon offset program that relies on the verified performance data from LEED projects that deliver solid proof of LEED’s significant contributions to the reduction of C02 in the atmosphere.

This program will capture actual energy performance data along with the associated C02 emissions for those LEED-certified buildings that have achieved energy-efficiency points beyond the LEED prerequisites. This offset opportunity will help drive owners to make more aggressive and creative decisions around the design and engineering of buildings that will reduce their C02 emissions. And, as the cost of offsets increase, so will the value of these buildings.

The energy optimization credit in LEED for Existing Buildings already addresses actual energy use, and our continuous process improvement practices allow us to make significant strides in our mission. So, we’re offering another incentive for 2007 that you can add to a growing arsenal of energy- and carbon-reduction focused solutions: LEED for New Construction and Core and Shell buildings that reach certification will automatically (at no cost whatsoever) be registered for LEED for Existing Buildings. This includes all projects, including those currently in the certification process and those that have already been warded their certifications.

This change will drive a continued focus on building operations and maintenance, and the sustained performance that it drives.

Making these kinds of continuous improvements to LEED is part of our normal vigilance in making sure we continually strive for excellence by delivering buildings that perform at the highest level. These proposals help frame LEED’s contributions in the context of our increasing focus on the delivery of buildings that have the greatest impact on climate change.

In fact, the time and effort we’ve put into evolving LEED to the next level encompasses a great deal of discussion not just about climate change practices, but also about how we incorporate into LEED many recent advances in science and technology, in bio-regional weightings, in any and all ways that LEED can continue to set the leadership standard for green buildings.

And, nothing pushes the envelope further than LEED Platinum buildings. We want to make the incentives for LEED Platinum hard to resist. LEED Platinum buildings are worthy of striving for because they contribute so profoundly to C02 emission reductions. So, beginning in 2007, we will fully rebate certification fees for any building that earns LEED Platinum status.

Let me say that differently. If your building achieves the Platinum level, the certification is free. You heard this right - absolutely free. We believe so strongly that quantum leaps must be made to address climate change that we are willing to shake things up a bit and we dare you to put us out of business.

We hope this will encourage owners and developers to reach ever higher, thereby making greater contributions to carbon reduction.

Here in the Mile High City, we’ve attained some new heights as well. You can feel good about your trip to Greenbuild, where we’re in the fifth year of putting on a carbon-neutral conference, no small feat when you consider our attendance is at a record high of 13,000 people.To date, we’ve offset over 38,000 tons of CO2 to cover emissions from the conference and attendee travel over the past 5 years. Thanks to our offset sponsors Milliken and DuPont, we have already offset more than 200 percent of the carbon for Greenbuild Denver alone. We urge you to visit one of the kiosks in the Convention Center here to donate your offsets, as we begin to look forward to hosting more than 20,000 people in Los Angeles next year.

Additionally, as an organization, USGBC will do its part. We’re committing this morning that by the end of 2007, USGBC as an organization will be 100-percent carbon neutral. As the first step in carbon reduction is actually using less energy - not just purchasing offsets - the most important thing we could do in reducing our carbon footprint is to move. So, next week, USGBC will relocate our 80-plus city-dwelling, mass-transit riding, passionate, committed team of professionals into a soon-to-be-certified LEED Platinum commercial interiors space that’s fit-out within a LEED Gold building in the heart of Washington, D.C. We are expecting a lot of visitors.

To gain even further traction on C02 reductions, we are piloting our USGBC Portfolio Program, introduced last year, with organizations all over the nation, an effort that will begin an amazing transformation of the built environment and spike our immediate and measurable impacts. The long-term goal of this program is to recognize companies for high environmental performance across their portfolios. And, the first step of this effort is to help companies achieve LEED certification quickly on a large number of buildings. A great example is PNC bank, who, by working closely with USGBC to pilot this process, has just this week certified 18 bank branches, for a total of 28 with many more to come.  

The Portfolio Program is a significant way to compress the period of time needed for certification, meaning we’ll have more LEED buildings out there performing at top levels and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. To launch the pilot, USGBC has been working with these market leaders to implement LEED on this scale.

In addition to PNC, other signatories into the program at this time include HSBC North America, Bank of America, Syracuse University, Cushman & Wakefield, Thomas Properties Group, and USAA Real Estate Co. Leading this group are representatives from the university and government sector who have made specific building commitments, including American University, California Department of General Services, University of California Santa Barbara, University of California Merced, Emory University, and University of Florida.

These companies and institutions collectively have 50,000 buildings and more than half-billion square feet of real estate, an amazing opportunity to significantly reduce C02 emissions.

This is an aggressive list. It reflects how seriously we take our leadership responsibility in delivering buildings that will have profound and significant impact on our planet.

Yesterday at our Members Conference, the Cascadia Region Green Building Council issued a very important challenge called the Living Building Challenge; its goal is to bring us to a place of true sustainability in the built environment.

Today, USGBC is answering that challenge by announcing the Living Building Design Competition. The first design award winners will be announced at Greenbuild 2007 in Los Angeles.

This is just one more program USGBC is implementing to help drive change in the built environment and an excellent example of the importance of our equal partnership with our chapters.

Separately, each of these initiatives is important. But, the power of their combined impact will demonstrate without qualification that LEED projects are an immediate and measurable solution to carbon reduction. And, USGBC is continuing to do its part to make sure LEED as a tool can help the industry achieve even more reductions.

I want to thank and acknowledge the hard work from the TAGs, the LEED Steering Committee, the chapters and our board, the LEED APs and the LEED faculty, mayors, governors, homebuilders - everyone who supports us with their courage and commitment to change.

But, let me be clear. Even in the face of all these positive changes, nothing will get us to our goals faster than building more green buildings. And, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve much more to do.

Someone once said that the difference between catastrophe and hope is education.

To that end, today, I’m pleased to announce that USGBC will be launching an important new educational program designed specifically to help industry professionals gain the knowledge they need to apply design and construction practices that have immediate and measurable impact on CO2 emissions. To be launched in the first half of 2007, this professional curriculum will dramatically enhance the expertise of every building professional around practices that can help us deliver on our efforts to slow climate change across the globe. Regardless of the level of LEED knowledge, regardless of your role in the industry, we offer an opportunity to learn, then to contribute to this critical agenda.

That’s the commitment we’re making. Now we want one from you.

Today, USGBC challenges every architect, every contractor, every builder, every interior designer, every facilities manager, every student on a college campus, every CEO and CFO in Corporate America, every tenant broker, every building owner, every governor, every mayor, every city council member and every county commissioner, every consultant, every real estate director, everyone - everyone - to commit to learning about how they can do more to limit C02 emissions from the buildings they build.

Look around you. For every architect in this audience today who has been involved in a green building, seven to 10 of your colleagues have not. For every building industry professional that has LEED AP status, 25 to 30 people do not. For every homebuilder that’s built a green home, thousands have not. For every one of the nearly 7,000 buildings that have registered their intent to pursue LEED, many thousands more have not.  

Today I challenge youto challenge them and hold them accountable, because design for the sake of design is no longer an option. Design for performance sake is our pathway to a better future.

And, that future has global implications. China will soon surpass the United States as the leading contributor of greenhouse gasses. India isn’t far behind. Our challenge is to help these emerging economies step over our mistakes and make better decisions sooner.

One organization that’s been instrumental in driving green building globally is the William J. Clinton Foundation. It is applying its unprecedented ability to bring together people and resources to address some of the planet’s most worrisome problems - AIDS, religious conflict, poverty, and climate change.

In response to the need for action to address global climate change, the Clinton Foundation this year launched the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI). They asked USGBC to become a partner in this effort because buildings represent the greatest opportunity for immediate and measurable results. In association with the World Green Building Council (WGBC), USGBC is partnering with the Clinton Climate Initiative to share LEED with the world's 40 largest cities - laying the groundwork for positive change on a truly global scale.

We'll also be collaborating with the WGBC to help create new green building councils in each city where one does not already exist. We’ll support these cities’ efforts by sharing best practices, expertise, and the same member-driven, consensus-based structure that has been the foundation of the green building movement’s success in the United States, India, and Canada, among other countries. Addressing buildings as a part of this broader context holds the future of the green building movement.

Ladies and gentlemen, from the Clinton Climate Initiative, please welcome its chairman, Ira Magaziner.

Do you know how lucky we all are to be here together, at this moment, in this time of unprecedented change?

With a foundation of partnerships like these, how can we notseize this moment, this moment that finds us atthe edge of the most significant, uncharted, critical societal shift in generations? The possibilities are exhilarating and endless. But, perhaps most importantly, we’ll finally begin to act on the knowledge we’ve acquired that proves that better health and improved productivity and slowing climate change are absolute immediate outcomes of the green buildings we build.

At USGBC, resultswill always matter more than intentions. Our unique ability is to convene the best minds, build consensus for direction, and inspire a bias for action. Immediate and measurable is our mantra. We’re an organization on a mission. And, that mission matters.

The impact of climate change, of explosive population migration to cities, of culture clash, and resource balance is felt across the globe.  

But, we can do something about it. We can build and operate greener buildings, more green schools, greener homes, and greener communities. We can make our vision of a planet powered by renewable energy, populated with sustainable communities and driven by clean, green innovation, a reality.

And, as we think about this moment, this moment where our choices are narrowing and the clock is ticking ...

I leave you with two questions:

If not us ... who?

If not now ... when?

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